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Feb. 2nd, 2009

My last post was in reference to a place called TechShop, which, along with other places such as NYC Resistor and The Sawdust Shop, are refered to by some as hacker spaces. A hacker space is basically a publicly available repository of equipment and knowledge, to be used to work either individually or collaboratively on projects that may not be something that can be worked on using the equipment available to the person or persons that originally conceived of the project. You might have a fascination with old daguerreotype pictures and are interested in doing an homage to that but are not willing to recreate it faithfully, what with the iodine and the silver halide and the bromine and the chlorine...all of which are perfectly safe I'm sure, but, maybe a laser etching would be able to recreate that for you. Or maybe you want to make a robotic arm and you have the programing skills but when it gets down to the physical building, maybe you need some advice.

Hacker spaces are, in my opinion, one of the most important...things....to come about in the last several years. I wish I could nail it down past thing, but, I just can't. Why do I think this, you might ask? Well, I'll tell you Mr. or Mrs. Interruptington. Reason number one I have already summed up. Hacker spaces make available equipment and knowledge that you might not normally have access to. Reason number two, anyone that goes to a hacker space is going to be at least slightly interested in what you're doing and if you need someone else to bounce ideas off of, you're likely to find that. Third, the kind of people that run a place, whether for business or for profit, are not going to be your average person that inhereted the shop from their father, and they aren't going to be the kind of person that was in it looking to get rich. They most likely started their space out of passion, and that's a rare thing to find anymore. Fourth, and it always comes down to this, the economy. When you learn how to use a drill press or a metal lathe or a band saw or a laser cutter or a 3d assembler or a glass blowing furnace and you are learning how to make things that you can use in your life. Things that you would normally go buy and waffle back and forth on and eventually just settle for choice A because it's a little cheaper and it's not the right color, but oh well.

Another type of this sort of collaborative creative community is crafting groups. You probably have a family member that does scrapbooking or knitting and maybe they get together at the local library once a week and sure, they probably know what they are doing, but every once in a while they come across a problem. And there will be someone there that can help solve that problem. And if there isn't, someone there probably knows someone that can help solve that problem. Maybe someone there makes their own paper for their scrapbooking out of recycled coupons and you want to learn how. On the surface you learned how to make pretty paper. But you just learned how to recycle junk mail into things worth mentioning.

For those that aren't in the know, Make and Craft magazines are a great launching point for a world that is way, way, way, way more interesting than your local megamart. Conventions like Maker Faire, Notacon, the Bazaar Bizarre, Bent Festival, and many more are things you need to experience. Museums and art shows are fantastic, but maybe you think musty old paintings and splatter on a canvas are boring. That's ok, it's not for everyone. Maybe you want to see books breathe.

This was meant to be a short blurb about hacker spaces but it turned into something I'm very passionate about...learning about everything you interact with. You use a computer, do you know how it works? Not just the names of the components, but HOW it works? You watch tv, do you know how that works? You take a shower, how does the water get from the water supply to you? You get a sandwich, how the heck do they make that ham taste so good, or that bread so soft? Your clothing, how was it made? What the hell is a cotton poly blend? Why cotton? Why not silk? And how do they get enough silk to MAKE something out of silk?

WHY DON'T YOU KNOW ANY OF THESE THINGS!?

...ok, maybe you do. Maybe you know all those answers. But I think you see my point. Learn. God, just....learn. There is almost nothing in this world that will make you feel better about yourself than to be told by someone 'how do you know how to do that?' when they see you knitting a scarf, and in your mind you can remember six months ago when you said the same thing to someone else...and they told you, and you learned. Well, I suppose you could say that being the one instilling that confidence in someone else is even better.

sorry to be preachy.

Also, P.S., this is the first entry I have made public in forevahs.

Update: markpasc supplied me with this link to a very nice little presentation on making your own hacker space. It is geared more towards computer types, it seems, but the basics are sound across any number of types of spaces.

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